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This Week in PLOS: Nov 30, 2015

In PLOS Pathogens, researchers from Germany, Israel, and the US present findings from a transcriptional and translational study of human cytomegalovirus interactions with host cells. Using human foreskin fibroblast cells infected with human cytomegalovirus, the team did RNA sequencing and sequencing-based ribosome profiling on samples taken over time for up to 72 hours. Results of the analysis revealed dynamic shifts in the transcripts and translational regulation within the cells, and degradation of specific host proteins and a rise in viral messenger RNA at the later stages of infection.

A University of Notre Dame-led team reporting in PLOS One describes a DNA-based approach for identifying spider species and their prey using spider web samples. In their proof-of-principle analysis, the researchers extracted DNA from spider web samples collected at the Potawatomi Zoo's black widow exhibit, which was home to a western black widow spider and, later, a handful of southern black widow spiders. By amplifying and sequencing stretches of mitochondrial DNA with nested primer sets, they were able to identify the black widow spiders, when present, from DNA left in their webs as well as their house cricket prey. "Spider web DNA as proof-of-concept may open doors to other practical applications in conservation research, pest management, biogeography studies, and biodiversity assessments," they write.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas and elsewhere used genome sequencing to characterize a Staphylococcus species, S. agnetis, involved in a form of lameness called bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis in broiler chickens for another PLOS One paper. The team used a combination of Illumina MiSeq short reads and Pacific Biosciences long reads to put together a 2.4 million-base chromosomal contig and a 38,000-base plasmid sequence for S. agnetis using DNA from the leg lesion of an affected broiler chicken. Through comparisons with other Staphylococcus genomes, together with a phylogenetic analysis, the study's authors determined that the bug clusters near S. hyicus and S. chromogenes, but appears to contain virulence genes and other features that differ from those previously described in pathogenic Staphylococcus strains.